SURVIVORS and grieving families are being offered P200,000 compensation for their ordeal in the Aug. 16 sinking of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas, based on accounts of several victims.
An initial P5,000 cash is offered as “financial assistance” aside from the free meals and hotel accommodation while search operations are going on.
But if the victims or their kinfolk accept the offer of P200,000, they would first be asked to sign a quit claim and waiver before payment is released.
Once they sign the papers, that would deter any criminal case of future claim they may make in court to demand for a bigger financial compensation.
(The amount is similar to the P200,000 offered by Sulpicio Lines to victims of the 2008 sinking of the Princess of the Stars.)
The P200,000 amount and P5,000 immediate financial assistance was also mentioned last week by Lito Salvio, 2GO assistant vice president.
But he gave no details about any conditions for the P200,000.
Daily meals and accommodation in Sugbutel at the North Reclamation Area were offered to survivors as well as free air transport to their destination in Manila or from their ports of origin Surigao City, Surigao del Norte and Nasipit/Butuan, Agusan del Norte.
Free board and lodging were also offered to the families of those who died or remained missing.
Ursula Cananzo, a passenger, was lucky to have survived the sinking but ended up a widow.
She received P5,000 cash assistance and said she was promised P240,000 insurance money from the company for the death of her husband Alfonso.
Ursula said she was told the amount of P50,000 would be deducted from the total amount for the cost of embalming, the coffin and vigil wake of her husband at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes.
A 2GO official clarified that no deductions would be made.
“Additional funeral expenses will be shouldered by 2GO and will not be deducted from the basic insurance of P200,000,” said Grace Golez, 2GO assistance vice president for passenger retail sales.
Asked by Cebu Daily News if victims have to first sign a waiver or quitclaim, Golez didn’t categorically reply.
She repeated that funeral expenses won’t be deducted from the P200,000 compensation.
“The passengers are worried that they will receive a lesser amount because of other expenses. They shouldn’t worry,” she said before leaving Cebu City Hall Friday night.
HARD TO RESIST
For hard up families, the offer is hard to resist.
Emma Butalon, a 39-year-old street sweeper from Rizal province, came to Cebu City to claim the body of her husband Ricardo.
Ricardo, a taxi driver, had gone to their hometown in Surigao City to get the birth certificate of their 11-year-old daughter so they could get her from an orphanage and resettle in Surigao. The couple had planned to relocate later this year.
With her spouse gone, she is now the family’s breadwinner.
Emma said she’s relying on the promise of immediate cash compensation from 2GO to help support their nine children.
For some, the immediate needs are for the daily provision, waiting in Cebu City for a definite word.
Anna Mhiller Lamoste, 24, lost her nine-month-old daughter in the ship sinking.
The infant who traveled with her is still listed as missing. Anna received P5,000 cash assistance for her missing daughter and another P5,000 for daily needs.
She said she accepted the money to help with the expenses during her temporary stay in Cebu City waiting for rescuers to find her missing daughter.
She said she was thankful she could eat three times a day and sleep at night at the Sugbutel. Free board and lodging was offered by 2Go.
The company is paying for the airfare of Ursula and one relative who will fly with her to Surigao to bring home the remains.
A second relative will accompany her but the excess cost for her seat will be deducted from the insurance money due her, said Emma. The company offers free airfare for two persons.
As of Thursday, she was still waiting for the insurance money. /with reports from Michelle Joy L. Padayhag